Manila: Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs has claimed its first high-profile victim – the mayor of a town who was among 10 persons killed in a gunfight with an anti-narcotics squad, a media report said.
Police said Mayor Samsudin Dimaukom, of southern Datu Saudi Ampatuan town, was killed along with nine others before dawn on Friday, the Independent reported.
The authorities said they were killed in a gunfight when they fired from three cars on officers at a checkpoint in Makilala town in North Cotabato province.
The mayor had been named by Duterte as among many politicians suspected to be involved in illegal drugs, a police official added.
The police had reportedly received a tip that Dimaukom’s group was scheduled to deliver a significant amount of methamphetamine to the province.
Police estimate more than 3,600 suspected drug dealers and addicts have been killed since Duterte took office on June 30.
So far police have launched more than 23,500 raids and arrested 22,500 suspected drug dealers and addicts.
Over 1.6 million houses of drug suspects have been visited by police to invite them to surrender and stop using drugs, or disengage from the drug trade, the Independent reported.
Around 7,32,000 addicts and dealers have surrendered, apparently for fear of being killed. The sheer number has surprised Duterte and the national police, prompting them to scramble for land and money to build rehabilitation centres.
The President said his crackdown on drug dealers and criminals will continue because he “cannot kill them all”.
Duterte was elected in May on the promise of preventing the Philippines from becoming a “narco-state” and vowed to kill those involved in importing or selling illegal drugs.
He also likened his national crackdown to the Holocaust and said he would be “happy” to slaughter as many addicts as Adolf Hitler massacred Jews. The US, the EU, the UN and human rights watchdogs have been alarmed by the brutality of the crackdown, the Independent reported.
The President has said he intended to extend his crackdown by “maybe another six months”.